Adrenal fatigue, recipes, Recovery

Adrenal Fatigue Pt. 3: Active Recovery

The last three months or so, I’ve been reading about and doing a lot of “active recovery” activities. While reconditioning after my long bout with respiratory infections and adrenal fatigue, I realized I really needed to restart exercising without overdoing it and just making myself more tired. The two concepts I’ve found to be fruitful as I look into this are Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and Active Recovery .

I wanted to share some things I’ve found helpful. Maybe you will, too. Remember: I am not a doctor; talk to yours before you start. There are some conditions, such as Myalgic Encephalopathy or “ME,” sometimes called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, that can be made very much worse by trying to stage back in exercise. So please be careful.

Background Concepts

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) refers to the amount of time between your heartbeats. If your resting heart rate is 60 beats per minute, that doesn’t mean your heart beats exactly one time per second. The time between the first two beats may be 1.00002 second, then .99998 second, then 1 second, etc. The amount of difference the time between your heart beats is your HRV. There are actually a bunch of different measurements that go into an HRV number, but that’s the basic idea.

Generally speaking, the higher your HRV is, the healthier you are. There are apps and devices that let you measure this easily at home. I’ve found tracking at my HRV scores to be very helpful in showing me how my body is doing, including:

  • What activities help me recover faster, and what activities wear me out
  • What type of activity I should pursue on a given day: rest, gentle exercise, or vigorous exercise
  • How to better tell how I’m doing from how I feel (it’s not always clear!)

I’ll go into more detail on these later.

Once I was able to get a handle on what I needed (rest/recovery/training), I needed to figure out activities for each of those needs. Rest is pretty easy – read soothing books and sleep a lot. The other two are harder, because they can overlap.

Enter “active recovery.” This is the idea that very gentle exercise can be more beneficial than straight rest in certain circumstances. I found a lot of work on active recovery coming from athletic trainers.  They are generally working with healthy people who are trying to take their performance from “very good” to “exceptional,” so I take their specific training regimens with a huge grain of salt. But their guidelines have been working well. The super-short version is, when you do active recovery, you want to keep your heart rate between 50-70% of your maximum heart rate (or “Zone 1 and 2”). For me, that’s between 88 and 125 beats per minute. (HR zone info here.) For other kinds of training, you aim for higher zones. I use a heart rate tracker and app while I’m exercising so I can target the right zone. It’s actually pretty hard to stay in the recovery zone, because when I’m tired, sitting at my desk and going to meetings can put me in or above the recovery threshold! No wonder I was having trouble overdoing it…

The other piece of recovery training is that breathing is incredibly important. I’ve come to appreciate yogic breathing and meditation in a whole new way. Likewise, body alignment and energy flow activities have also been super helpful.

Tune in for tomorrow’s installment where I’ll go into agonizing detail about those. 🙂

Adrenal fatigue, recipes, Recovery

Adrenal Fatigue Recovery, Pt. 2: Menu

For background, see Adrenal Recovery, Pt. 1

Goals:

  • Deeply nutritious food that’s fairly easy to prepare
  • Protein, fat, and complex carbs every time you eat
  • Avoid sugar and refined carbs like white bread
  • Go ahead and eat salt – you need the sodium
  • Keep blood sugar steady – so eat frequently (even if you have to get up and eat in the middle of the night)

For the week, prepare:

Breakfasts

  • Meaty:
    • Pick any 2-4 oz of meat: burger “sliders,” pork tenderloin, no-nitrate hot dogs (e.g., Applegate Natural), baked turkey breast, or a grilled chicken thigh
    • Complex carbs: Sprouted whole grain bread (or bun) or sweet potato slices
    • A vegetable, if you can swing it: Salt-n-garlic beans or steamed carrot sticks
  • Veggie:
    • Calabaza queso on corn tortillas
    • Corn tortillas with refried beans and cheese
    • Raw carrot
    • Eggs are great, if you can have them
  • Avocado toast + protein

Dinners

Soup, stew, etc.

Pan dinners

Baked/Pressure/Big Batch

Super Quick

  • Rotisserie chicken and salt’n’garlic beans or Brussels sprouts (I probably ate this meal once a week for a year – use leftovers for chicken salad and broth)
  • Salmon burgers with veg
  • Beef tips (keep the serving of mashed potatoes small, and add lots of butter)
  • Chicken salad on salad, with Mary’s crackers or Triscuits

To have on hand

  • Calabaza queso, Zucchini butter, hummus, or Baba ganouj
  • Triscuits
  • Nuts/Kind bars
  • Meatballs, Grilled chicken thighs, and/or hot dogs
  • Coconut bars (omit honey but keep choc chips – 1 g sugar per serving)
  • Sweet potato wedges
  • Praeger’s veg patties (check varieties)
    • Cali burger
    • Greens burger has some potato flakes mid-way down the list; lowest carb option
    • Asian burger has some potato flakes way down the list
    • Bibimbop burger has some potato flakes way down the list; higher carb
    • Others have too much white stuff and/or egg

Freezer-stocking meals

Dining Out

  • Japanese
    • Agedashi Tofu
    • Miso
    • Edamame
    • Yakitori (sauce on side)
    • Hand rolls and brown rice on rolls
    • Chicken Terriyaki w/o sauce
  • Chinese
    • Get brown rice or don’t eat rice at restaurant
    • Moo goo gai pan
    • Hunan chicken
    • Chicken and vegetables
  • Session Room
    • Sub corn tortilla for slider bun
    • Chicken tacos
  • Qdoba
    • Burrito with brown rice
    • Tacos
  • Great Plains
    • Burger, 1/2 wheat bun, sweet potato fries
  • Noodles & Co
    • Chicken Veracruz salad
    • They don’t have ww noodles anymore, and most stuff has a lot of sugar.
Adrenal fatigue, recipes, Recovery

Adrenal Fatigue Recovery, Pt. 1: Background

In 2016-17, I was pretty sick. It started with pneumonia and got worse from there. At some point, my doctor diagnosed me with adrenal fatigue – basically, I’d been stressed out for so long my adrenal glands couldn’t keep up their usual endocrine dance. Some people debate whether adrenal fatigue is  “real” diagnosis, and I’m not interested in arguing. I do know that by following these suggestions, I did feel better, and when I didn’t, I felt much, much worse. It took me about 2 years of alternating small improvements and plateaus to feel mostly healthy.

There’s a lot of material out there about the condition, and if you think you have it, I hope you’re working with a health care provider. What I want to do here is share the guidelines I followed and the recipes I relied on so if you are going through the same thing, you don’t have to expend your limited energy finding recipes.

My Guidelines

As always: I am not a doctor. Your mileage may vary. Listen to your body and your health care provider. The guidelines my doc gave me were:

  • Reduce or eliminate the source of the stress.
  • Find something to smile about, laugh at, and enjoy every day.
  • Be in bed before 10pm and nap as much as you want (without disturbing nighttime sleep).
  • Rest twice a day (midmorning and midafternoon) for 15-20 minutes in a reclined position. I don’t know what the magic is, but being horizontal makes a HUGE difference.
  • Gentle exercise only – don’t tire yourself.
  • Drink 2 liters salted water (a big pinch of real sea salt and maybe a squeeze of lime in a glass of water), rehydration solution, and/or broth daily
  • Don’t eat foods you are sensitive or allergic to
  • Have plenty of sodium
  • Don’t let blood sugar crash

Adrenal fatigue recovery eating plan

Keeping blood sugar steady is incredibly important.  For me, this is what it took to not let my blood sugar crash:

  • Have protein, fat, and complex carbs at every meal.
    • Aim for 20+g protein at breakfast.
    • Don’t go hog wild, but don’t fear carbs, either. You need that easy blood sugar.
  • Eat snacks as needed – including getting up in the night to eat if I wake up hungry. I highly recommend keeping a batch of these turkey/beef meatballs in the freezer – two of these are a perfect overnight snack.

I also figured out two years into this that I had a gut full of candida, which was making it very hard to keep my blood sugar steady and to sleep through the night. So, when treating that, I also added the usual anti-candida rules:

  • No white rice, white flour, white pasta, white potatoes, fruit, or sweeteners of any kind
  • …except a 5g sugar treat each day to keep me sane, e.g. 8 dark chocolate chips.

You may or may not have this issue.

Method

Of course, it takes energy to feed yourself well, and that’s just what you don’t have. So having a plan help. When possible, I’d prep this stuff once a week:

  • A vegetable-heavy soup in good broth (usually eaten as mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack)
  • A big batch of turkey-beef meatballs or grilled chicken thighs (usually eaten at breakfast or middle of the night)
  • And if possible, a big batch of cooked vegetables or freezing some pre-made meals to have for lunches

And then dinners were from this list, which I keep adding to under the tag “good_carb”. I’m going to sort/link some specific recipes in my next post.